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TV THIS WEEK : THE BIG THING

Bitter taste of success

December 16, 2007|Mary McNamara

If "Frosty the Snowman" and "Miracle on 34th Street" have left you feeling a little sticky and sick with holiday treacle, Ricky Gervais is happy to bring a bracing shot of 100-proof nihilism to the party. "Bloody Merry" is the tagline of "Extras: the Extra Special Series Finale," an 80-minute supposedly final episode of the HBO comedy that effectively ended earlier this year. Following the career of middle-age actor Andy Millman (Gervais) as he moves from film extra to television comedy star, the two-season "Extras" was always sardonic to say the least. With stars such as Ben Stiller, Orlando Bloom and Kate Winslet playing hilarious though less than complimentary versions of themselves, the show celebrated the wretched underbelly of fame, in all its twitchy, neurotic, ridiculous glory.

The finale goes one step further, taking the narrative and the characters into comedy of almost Dickensian bleakness. Irritated that he is stuck in the gibbering idiot role he created, Andy ruthlessly attempts to claw his way up the ladder, with no consideration for friend Maggie (the priceless Ashley Jensen) or agent Darren (Stephen Merchant).

With star turns by Clive Owen, George Michael and "Kitchen Nightmares" chef Gordon Ramsay, the finale is the ultimate anti-holiday special, perfect for a cozy evening of vodka shots and industry backbiting. We can only hope that Gervais is not really this bitter; he makes such wonderful television shows, it would be a shame for him to stop.

(HBO, today, 9 p.m.)

-- Mary McNamara

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